Industry experts say that housekeeping carts often get overlooked when it comes to ensuring their cleanliness.
“People take them for granted,” says Mickey Crowe, manager/trainer at CLEEnTech Consulting Group, LLC, a custodial consulting firm based in Woodstock, Georgia. “I seldom see job cards or training regarding the maintenance of carts. But as the carts become soiled, they become a breeding ground for germs.”
General cleaning and orderliness of carts is an important component to any cleaning operation. Spencer says, at the University of Washington, organization of items on carts is stressed to help ensure that items are easily accessible to those who use them.
“Custodial staff within the building services department are directed to take time before the end of the shift to arrange and restock their carts for the next day,” says Spencer. “This includes cleaning up any obvious soil, spilled solutions or debris,” he says. “There may be a small amount of dry trash remaining in a lined collection receptacle, which will be disposed of the next day.”
In general, best practice is to have custodians wipe down cleaning carts periodically throughout each shift using general purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth to trap and remove bacteria on the surface. Crowe says cleaning carts should also be on a daily schedule for cleaning, with disinfection scheduled based on use. In aseptic areas, total disinfection should take place more frequently.
“Some hospital groups have evaluated cleaning carts as a source of contamination and are taking steps to train staff, as well as enhance the cleaning/disinfecting of the carts — especially touch points,” says Crowe.
All of the different cracks and crevices where dirt can be trapped are key areas to be cleaned on a cart. Other key areas include: any point of contact where another cleaning tool is going to be touching the cart; where the surface of the cart is touching parts of the building (walls, floor, etc.); handles that workers regularly touch with bare hands or with soiled gloves; and soiled products coming into contact with other products.
“It’s important to ensure that paper supplies do not become wet, so they must be separated from cleaning solutions, microfiber cleaning clothes and any collected trash,” says Spencer. “Such carts often are equipped with separate compartments for this purpose, including those designed to isolate soiled cloths from clean ones, and cloths designed for cleaning or wiping one surface — such as the toilet — from those used to clean another — such as a sink. Many of the regular carts staff use are also compartmentalized in this fashion.”
Cross-contamination can easily be avoided by separating dirty, contaminated items from clean items and products on the cart.
“The most reasonable approach to this fact, in most settings is to keep contaminated objects separate from those that should remain clean on carts,” says Spencer. “This includes bagging wet, soiled microfiber cloths and mops to prevent them from making contact with clean cloths and mops, equipment and supplies, and other objects.”
Schneringer adds that if facilities have multiple cleaning carts in rotation, they should introduce standard operating procedures to ensure that cleaners aren’t using dirty carts, or worse, taking items off of dirty carts and transferring them to clean carts.
“It’s good to clean janitor carts — especially if those carts are kept in a centralized location — so you don’t end up with potential cross-contamination if staff grabs a tray or supply off of another cart,” says Schneringer. “Having some good standard operating procedures is beneficial.”
Keeping Housekeeping Carts Clean
Customizing Custodial Carts
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